Former Conservative Hero Paul Ryan Now Fails The Right-Wing Media's Purity Test

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

When newly-elected Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was picked by Mitt Romney to be his running mate in 2012, right-wing media were ecstatic. Cheered by Ryan's sterling conservative credentials, far right commentators celebrated that one of their own has been added to the ticket.

Rush Limbaugh: "I don't remember a vice presidential pick that has so energized a campaign as this choice of Paul Ryan."

Glenn Beck: "Mitt Romney has picked a solid, smart conservative for his vice-presidential running mate."

Laura Ingraham: "More than anything today, we need a man with courage and clear-thinking. Ryan has both."

Mark Levin: "Paul Ryan is an excellent VP choice."

Fast forward just three years and those same commentators are now raising doubts about Ryan, when not outright trashing him in public. Ryan's sudden sin?  Not being sufficiently conservative; not passing the purity test.

Limbaugh: "This whole Ryan thing hasn't made any sense to me from the first moment I heard about it." 

Beck: "The 'fix' the republic needs is Paul Ryan? The man who never met a bailout he didn't like? A man who asked to be made king? 100% support and you can't vote him out? Your solution is MORE POWER FOR THE SPEAKER?!?!?!?"

Levin: "NOT SO FAST! Paul Ryan an amnesty advocate"

Ingraham: "From misrepresenting the outrageous Fast Track &TPP to amnesty & foreign workers, list of demands, Ryan's possibly the worst Spkr choice."

Ryan's amazing free-fall from grace seems to be part of a larger race to the radical right, not only among powerful forces with the Republican Party, which now seem to be fundamentally opposed to governing and legislating, but also within key portions of the right-wing media. There seems to be a mini-stampede underway towards an extremist destination rarely seen in mainstream American politics. And for parts of the conservative media that means now demonizing former heroes like Paul Ryan.

"Conservative talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have already denounced him as a dangerous moderate," according to Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times. "Tea party organizations are already raising money from supporters with appeals to stop any more Ryanesque budget deals."

One of the many layers of irony here is that in 2012, the right-wing media defended Ryan from Democratic claims that he was too far to the right and outside of the mainstream. Today, many conservative commentators are attacking Ryan for not being far enough to the right. 

Yet "Ryan hasn't undergone any sort of David Brockian-type worldview change that would warrant labeling him an apostate," wrote conservative Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast. He added that while "Ryan's voting record has its blemishes," Ryan would "certainly be the most conservative Speaker of the House in modern history."

Esquire agrees:

He still believes in privatizing social security and Medicare. He still believes that social programs are a "hammock." He still believes that the Social Security survivor benefits that he and his family received throughout his adolescence cause dependency on other people and their families.

A portion of the conservative press, of course, has never been in love with an establishment-type players like Jeb Bush, so his lack of support this year hasn't been surprising. But Paul Ryan? He's "the Republican party's intellectual leader" as The Weekly Standard once touted. The conservative press could barely contain its universal glee when Ryan got the VP nod just three years ago. 'He's one of us,' seemed to be the collective cheer.

"Fox News, the most powerful right-wing media outlet in the country, has spent years praising Ryan as a 'star,' a 'genius,' and a man of 'courage,'" Media Matters noted in 2012.

Today, the insults pile high:

-"He is the wrong man at the wrong time."  [American Thinker]

-"Paul Ryan represents one of the absolute worst outcomes for conservatives. " [Conservative Review]

-"Despite his portrayal by the media as being conservative, most actual conservatives in the House know that Ryan isn't a conservative." [Breitbart]

Breitbart, in particular, has become a clearinghouse of often-inaccurate analysis regarding Ryan, such as claiming the Republican's bid for the speakership had recently collapsed. Breitbart even warned readers that Media Matters "has Paul Ryan's back," as proof the Republican cannot be trusted.

In a sign of how fractured and radical the conservative movement has become, it appears fewer and fewer media players have Ryan's back. Even though they cheered him as a savior in 2012.

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